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Maumee succeeds in challenging flood data

Maumee officials received word yesterday that a federal agency is correcting an error that led to more than 30 homes being mistakenly included in a floodplain.

In a letter dated May 17, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it has revised the Flood Insurance Rate Map for Lucas County to remove an area along Harrison Street. The floodplain had been shifted when the map was revised in October, 2000, and residents and city officials had worked for months to remedy the problem.

Homeowners complained that they faced annual bills of $1,000 or more for flood insurance they didn't need. The Harrison Street homes in question are on a bluff overlooking the Maumee River.

The correction by FEMA moves the floodplain about 200 feet to the south and west.

“Basically, we're back to the 1980 map for that area,” said Bruce Wholf, chief building officer for Maumee. “There was an error. Many of the residents are going to be happy because of the insurance savings.”

Mr. Wholf said some residents had been forced to put plans to expand their homes on hold because of the floodplain revision.

Maumee officials said a clerical error led to a floodplain map with obvious mistakes.

John Jezak, city administrator, said the map showed a causeway that doesn't exist. Also, the map showed the Maumee-Perrysburg bridge over the river would be under water during a flood.

“It was a copy error, but a small copy error almost cost some of our citizens thousands of dollars,” said Kevin Olman, city council president.

Any property that has a 1 percent chance of flooding during a storm that happens once in 100 years is considered in the floodplain.

The FEMA maps were last updated in 1980.

The Harrison Street residents weren't the only ones complaining about the revisions made in the fall.

Some homeowners in the St. James Wood and Deerpointe subdivisions in Sylvania Township, plus scattered residents in Toledo, have said they were mistakenly put in the floodplain.

Lucas County Engineer Keith Early said his office surveyed in St. James Wood and found that about 40 properties had been erroneously mapped in the floodplain. Mr. Early said that a survey is planned for about 30 homes in Deerpointe.

The county will submit the survey results to FEMA in an effort to have the floodplain findings revised, he said.

“I think it was probably a little different situation there than it was in Maumee, because they just drew it wrong in Maumee,” Mr. Early said. “But I don't think they had adequate survey data to tell what the elevations were in the other two.”

He said homes in the two subdivisions probably were included in the floodplain based on outdated contour maps. The county last ordered new contour maps, which are based on aerial photos, in 1974, before either area was developed. “It's pretty old data,” Mr. Early said. “We are getting new contour maps this fall.”

The engineer said a few St. James Wood homeowners hired surveyors on their own at a cost of about $300 to $500 and persuaded FEMA to drop them from the floodplain.

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